Mental Health Disorder Concept. Exhausted Depressed Female touching Forehead. Stressed Woman Silhouette photo combined with Watercolor. Depression Psychology inside her Head


Pongo Poetry Project’s mission is to engage youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth. For over 20 years, Pongo has mentored poetry with children at the Child Study and Treatment Center (CSTC), the only state-run psychiatric hospital for youth in Washington State. Many CSTC youth are coping with severe emotional, behavioral, and mental health challenges. Approximately 40% of youth arrive at CSTC having been court ordered to get treatment; however, by the end of their stay, most youth residents become voluntary participants.

Pongo believes there is power in creative expression and articulating one’s pain to an empathetic audience. Through this special monthly column in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald, Pongo invites readers to bear witness to the pain, resilience, and creative capacity of youth whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. To partner with Pongo in inspiring healing and relief among youth coping with mental and emotional turmoil, join the Pongo Poetry Circle today!

Content Warning: Some of these poems discuss abuse, death, and neglect.


by a young person at CSTC

The last time I felt jealous was yesterday
It made me feel angry that other people have nice things
that I don’t have
like having family and feeling loved by them
like having gifts like shoes and clothes
so then I write my own songs to myself
deep, sad songs
with lyrics that talk about how I feel
in the present moment
and, when I’m lonely,
how I feel about the past
and I sing the songs to myself to feel better
But when I hear the others bragging again
I still feel jealous

Losing My Other Half

by a young person at CSTC 

when death comes suddenly
you chase it
it grabs you
it rips the air from your lungs
drowning you in its darkness

on a sunny day
the sky turned grey
the flashing lights
filled my mind

i heard the sirens
i smelled the sanitizer
i touched his cold grey hand
i felt my joy
my light, my life
slip away the moment

My Journey

by a young person at CSTC

Things weren’t perfect for me at home
First, my mother is a sex and drug addict
Then my dad left me for dead
like the stab of a knife, I hoped for a better life
My brother the only light in my life
went down a road to emptiness
Like the witch from Stardust
his heart cut out
no more brightness

But now getting help
i find myself
having brighter days
i know it’s not home
but my heart still knows
everything will be ok

📸 Featured image by Black Salmon/

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